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Yemeni Deportees From Saudi Arabia: A New Repetition Of Past Disasters

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By : Amel Al-Ariqi

SANA'A, Dec. 9 - The plight of Yemenis living along the Saudi Arabia- Yemeni borders, compounded dramatically during the ongoing war across northern Yemen, which entered a new phase with the beginning of Saudi Arabia involvement this November .

Saudi Arabia military operations to drive back the Al Houthi insurgents into Yemen, have stressed the security measures, as well as exacerbated the humanitarian situation and forced thousands of Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia to return back home.

When Al Houthi rebels took up positions on Al Dukhan, a peak across the border, on November 3, Saudi Arabia authorities ordered all civilians residing along the border areas to leave for safer areas as they drew up plans to drive out the insurgents.

Saudi Arabias citizens have been accommodated by the Saudi Arabia authorities, while the orders to clear out left Yemenis in the area with no option but to leave their properties, and return to Yemen.

Mousa Hussein, 45, is one of thousands of Yemenis who was born and grew up in Saudi Arabia Arabia. He was born in Khamis-Mushid, one of the border towns, where he got married and had eight kids. He has worked as an electrical technician, building contactor, sheep trader, shepherd, as well as in a variety of other jobs. Barely earning enough to survive, he couldn't send his kids to school, nor get his residency as, ''it will cost me at least 12,000 Saudi Arabia Rails (about $3000) to get the residency, and without it I can't send my kids to school or even go to hospitals in Saudi Arabia,'' he said.

''If I had to send my wife or one of my kids to a hospital, I would have to rent a car to Haja(a Yemeni city) four hours from here, and in that case I could use the ID I got two years ago saying that I'm Yemeni and was born in Yemen,'' he added, confirming that the majority of the population of his town are Yemenis originally, and have no residency nor IDs, which means they are always at risk of being arrested and expulsion from the country.

According to Hussien, many Yemenis are stuck on the Saudi Arabia-Yemeni borders, unable to come back to Yemen where they may face poverty and unemployment, leaving behind their property. Additionally, they are at risk of ''oppression from the Saudi Arabia authorities, or of being caught up in the middle of military confrontations,'' he confirmed.

Mistreatment and humiliation

Hussien said that many male ''Yemeni villagers'' had been detained by Saudi Arabia authorities to ascertain whether or not they had any links to the rebels.

Hussien was one of them. ''I was arrested along with another thirteen Yemenis that day. We were beaten on our faces, legs, stomachs, and backs for several hours. Our hands and legs were tied and our eyes were blind-folded. They forced us to stand up for such a long time that the exhaustion became a form of torture,'' he recalled.

''But the worst part was when they cornered us in a small police vehicle in the middle of the desert and closed any air outlets and left us suffering in the scorching heat, all tied up with our eyes covered. No water.. no food. We heard each other's cries and prayers, while drowning in sweat, tears, and darkness for several hours. At that time I thought I would die and never see my kids again,'' he added.

Hussein was released and deported after ten days of detention, and after they insured that he had no link with the Houthies. None of his family knew a thing about it. ''We were so worried that he may have been shot by the rebels as we had no idea where he was,'' said Hussein's wife, who seemed so exhausted as evidenced by the wrinkles and the swelling around her eyes, indicating the poor medical condition she was in.

''The next day of my husband disappearance, we heard that the Saudi Arabia military was evacuating the villages. My brother came with his five kids and wife to take me, and we left behind Mohammed, Hussein's brother, who is mentally unstable. We walked 20 kilometers until we arrived at a plantation, where we remained under the sun's heat and the rain for about two weeks, until Hussein showed up.''

Hussein's journey back from Sa'ada in Yemen to look for his family in Saudi Arabia wasn't easy. ''I decided to sneak in and find my family in order to take them out. I was hiding with Yemeni friends who were smuggling qat and other goods. I read that my brother Mohammed had been arrested and accused of being a warlock working with the rebels,'' he said.

When Hussein finally found his family, he was surrounded by the Saudi Arabia authorities, who deported him and his children to Yemen. "My brother-in law preferred to hide in Saudi Arabia, hoping to get back his home," he added.

Often during political crises, Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia, legally or illegally, face the threat of expulsion.

In 1990, during the first Gulf war, around 1 million Yemenis returned home, causing extra economic hardship on Yemen, and causing the poverty rate to rise sharply to 47 percent, according to the Yemeni government.

Miserable Camp Life

Hussein left Saudi Arabia with empty hands. He had very little money, had lost his house, and his sheep which cost $4000. He had no choice but to go to one of the over-crowded Al Mazrak refugee camps, in north-western Yemen.

As he arrived, he had to wait for five hours to register and get blankets.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported on November 15, that 240 Saudi Arabia villages had been evacuated when fighting between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia forces spilled over the border from Yemen.

Since August in the mountainous Malahizh and Razih districts on the Saudi Arabia-Yemeni border, fighting has already caused over 20,000 people to flee to safer areas, according to Human Right's Watch (HRW).

According to United Nations' humanitarian agencies, thousands more arrived in Mazraq camp within five days after Saudi Arabia Arabia entered the war.

UNICEF, reported that 600 children were being treated for acute malnutrition in Mazraq camp, which has "exceeded its capacity," according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

The World Food Program reports that 15,000 Yemeni civilians are "trapped near the border" with Saudi Arabia.

''I'm not going to send my family back to Saudi Arabia, after all this humiliation. If cannot find job here, and that is what I assume will happen, then I may become a qat smuggler on the borders,'' Hussien said.

''I may die from a bullet fired by a border guard's gun, but I have no choice,'' he added.